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Community, Privacy and Personal Health
by William Polowniak, Ph.D.

I’ve gathered a few gems from over 30 years of living in community. One of those gems seems to be a balance between community and privacy. Without privacy community will not survive. Nor will any relationship for that matter. One must take and demand privacy. Paradoxically, one can not enjoy a healthy privacy without attention to community. Privacy per se only leads to isolation which is the root of all neuroses, and can lead to psychosis. In privacy alone one does not have the reality check, and necessary social nurturing, that comes from social intercourse. Also, noblesse oblige— one must give to others. Giving is inherently healthy, natural and necessary to wholesome health.
 Community and privacy is like altruism and selfishness. In order to be altruistic one must attend to the self. This includes privacy. If the self is not nourished we can not reach out to others. In order to have a healthy self we must attend to others because human kind are social beings. So we must be altruistic in order to provide the self with all that the self needs in order to be a truly healthy and balanced being.
 It is a question of balance. Having lived in community for over 30 years now I can say from experience that those who move out of a community living environment could be classified into two categories. Those that are totally selfish, and those that want too much community. And it all seems to boil down to criticism & condemnation. The selfish are critical of others. They do not seem to be able to live and let live. They move from one living situation to another always bringing complaints about the last living arrangement with them, whether it be a roommate situation or a marriage that has gone bad. The over emphasis on community places a drain on the privacy needs of others. A demand for more community meetings can be a disguised attempt to manipulate and control others via the tyranny of the group. The less aware, or newcomers who crave acceptance at any cost are easily manipulated. Good examples are the mob, a riot, cult or a dysfunctional family.
 There does seem to be one remedy for the negative aspects of privacy and community. And that is awareness, and especially a strong sense of self. I have found that several things help. A good diet of wholesome foods without alcohol, drugs, tobacco, coffee, excessive sugar and so on. Exercise of course, and reasonable diversion through occasional travel, even if only for a day trip to the beach or park. Meditation helps me. It puts me in touch with myself and opens me up to contributing more to others. A strong self can be compassionate as well as knowing when to say “no” or “not now.”
 A good signal that things are not in balance is the simple awareness or how critical we are of others and how much we blame. The universe is ultimately benign. It does not favor nor does it condemn. Only human kind does that.
 Finally, research from psychology points to one other very interesting fact. It seems that if a child has just one good trusted friend, this can lead to a strong and healthy personality and to future personal growth (Unless as friends you are addicts enabling each other to deepen your addictions.) From this I would assume that it is wise to cultivate at least one good (healthy) friend with whom we keep in contact from time to time.
 Interestingly enough good friendship seems to revolve around food. Let us remember that we are what we eat. I know a lot of very fine and quality people who still eat meat, foul and seafood, but for some reason the vegetarian friends I have seem to rise to the top (except for rare fanatics.) This makes me sound like and elitist, I know. It might just be self selection. I choose to dine with healthy people. I choose not to use alcohol, drugs, tobacco and coffee. I am healthy, awake, and aware. Also because I make so many healthy choices I have a lot of time on my hands. This creates a kind of vacuum. Sometimes that leads to boredom. And I have found boredom to be a killer. It tempts me back to addictions of my past and lazy or slothful habits like TV or meaningless relationships and activity. My solution and cure when I can remember it is meditation and organic gardening. Meditation not for any specific religious or spiritual reason but merely to go deep within where my mind stuff reveals itself and I can go beyond that to the “nothingness” within. Gardening because I eat what I grow. I would never be without an organic garden, a personal special friend or giving to others.

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